The Trail Blazers split their two-game series with the Timberwolves after an ugly 114-112 loss on Sunday. Damian Lillard, who struggled to get his three-point shot rolling in the first half, managed to pull the Blazers within striking distance down the stretch and finished with 38 points. For the Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns was smothered by Portland’s defense throughout the game. With Towns out of the action, rookie Anthony Edwards set a new career-high with 34 points.
If you haven’t already, you can check out our instant recap for a quarter-by-quarter breakdown. Here is a look at four items that defined the Blazers’ loss to the Wolves.
Blazers produced their lowest-scoring first quarter of the 2020-21 season on Sunday. Anchored down by stagnate sets and cold shooting, coach Terry Stotts’ squad failed to put the Wolves off balance and recorded just 20 points in 12 minutes. Minnesota managed to hold Portland’s first-quarter field goal percentage to 36.4 percent—and they didn’t have to expend much energy in the process.
Underneath the team-wide struggles in the opening frame, Derrick Jones Jr. and Gary Trent Jr. failed to connect on a single field goal.
After surrendering 30-plus points to Karl-Anthony Towns on Saturday, it was clear that the Blazers were focused on mixing things up on Sunday. When Towns received the ball inside the arc, a double team was quick to arrive. That scheme forced the former Kentucky center to the perimeter. From there, Towns did a superb job of passing out of trouble and attacking slow-footed closeouts from Enes Kanter. In the first half, this approach generated a mixed bag of results. The Wolves’ offense sputtered to just 47 points, but Anthony Edwards was able to find a rhythm working inside that KAT-centric void.
The second half played out in a similar fashion. Robert Covington picked up the majority of the one-on-one coverage on Towns and the Blazers continued to send extra help in that direction. The result: a career-best night for Edwards. The former Georgia star sliced through Portland’s often-absent defense for 34 points.
Towns finished the night with nine field goal attempts and eight assists.
Inconsistent Three-Point Shooting
The Blazers struggled though three quarters of less-than-ideal outside shooting in Sunday’s loss. Portland was unable to to punish Minnesota’s zone-heavy scheme, turning the game into a slog for extended stretches. Finally, in the fourth quarter, Lillard and Trent got rolling. After producing just nine three-pointers in three quarters as a team, the Blazers put up eight triples in final 12 minutes. Unfortunately, that late-game barrage was not enough to overcome Ricky Rubio’s steady free throw shooting in crunch time.
A Window Into the Second Half Schedule?
Sunday’s game was ugly. Honestly, that feels like an understatement. The second half of the NBA schedule features a plethora of back-to-back games, which could result in a handful of outings that look and feel like this. The Blazers lack of defense and dependence on the long ball places an incredible amount of pressure on Lillard. CJ McCollum’s return should alleviate some of that workload, but the second half of this season could feel like an extended dentist visit.
The Blazers return to action on Tuesday with a matchup against the Pelicans.